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Friday, May 17, 2024 | Back issues
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DA Won’t Let Pro-Lifers ‘Grand Jury Shop’

HOUSTON (CN) - Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson on Wednesday defended a grand jury's decision to indict two anti-abortion activists for shooting covert videos at a Planned Parenthood clinic.

Texas Republican lawmakers asked Anderson's office to investigate Planned Parenthood's Houston clinic in August 2015 after videos were posted that supposedly showed employees of the women's health care provider negotiating to sell aborted fetal tissue.

But the grand jury cleared Planned Parenthood on Monday, and indicted two activists who shot the videos. They were charged with using fake California driver's licenses.

The jury charged David Daleiden, 26, director of the Center for Medical Progress, and the center's employee Sandra Merritt, with tampering with a government record: the phony driver's licenses. The charge is a second-degree felony that carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

Daleiden also was charged with a misdemeanor for offering to buy human organs, which is punishable by up to a year in jail.

The California residents' Houston defense attorneys said they expect the charges will be dropped.

"How many of us have used a fictitious driver's license to buy beer?" attorney Terry Yates asked as a news conference. "Can you imagine every kid that did that being charged with a second-degree felony? This grand jury has overreached."

Their other attorney Jared Woodfill compared their use of fake IDs to " tactics used by investigative reporters all around this country for decades."

The attorneys asked Anderson to submit the case to a different grand jury, but she refused.

"I am not going to do that," Anderson said in a statement Wednesday. "We have a longstanding policy against grand jury shopping. That means when a grand jury comes back with a decision we don't like we don't go and find another one to get the result we want. That violates the integrity of the whole system."

Anderson is a Republican whom then-Gov. Rick Perry appointed to replace her husband after he died in 2013.

She added in the statement: "Anyone who pays attention knows that I'm pro-life. I believe abortion is wrong, but my personal belief doesn't relieve me of my obligation to follow the law."

Legal experts told Houston's ABC affiliate that if Daleiden and Merritt are convicted they will likely not face any prison time.

Daleiden's other attorney Murphy Klasing told The Associated Press that arrest warrants have been issued for the filmmakers, and the district attorney's office will let them travel from California to surrender to police in Houston. He said he doesn't know when that will happen.

They will be booked into Harris County Jail. Bond is set at $11,000 for Daleiden and $10,000 for Merritt.

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